How will the Emerald New Deal work?

The Emerald New Deal will redirect our city’s existing Cannabis Business Tax to the Emerald New Deal Fund, which will be overseen by a Planning and Oversight Commission. The Commission will direct and approve expenditures through a Strategic Investment Plan that supports the individuals, families, and neighborhoods that suffered the most under the War on Drugs. 

Planning and Oversight Commission

The committee will have 9 seats. Each City Councilmember and Mayor will nominate 1 person. Nominees shall meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • At least 5 of the seats will be held by individuals or family members who have been directly impacted by incarceration associated with War On Drugs.

  • 4 seats will be held by (a) individual or family member that has been directly impacted by incarceration associated with War On Drugs; (b) professional expertise in finance, grantmaking, and auditing; and (c) an owner, employee or advocate of the cannabis industry.  

Strategic Investment Plan

This END Strategic Investment Plan will establish the Commission’s funding priorities based on research, including impact data, and identified needs of impacted communities. The Investment Plan will be published every four years with the intention of adapting based on research and needs. 

Funding Priorities

The Strategic Investment Plan will focus on the following categories: 

  • Re-Entry Support Services

  • Mental Health

  • Housing Access

  • Economic Self-Sufficiency

  • Community and Economic Development 

  • Cannabis Equity Program (for business owners impacted by the War on Drugs)

The Committee will develop the Strategic Investment Plan every 4 years using research to determine the geographic areas, specific communities, and even individual-level criteria for investing the funds towards those most impacted by War On Drugs. The research, report, and Strategic Investment Plan will help determine to what extent the funds are used to start new programs and/or support existing programs and Community-Based Organizations. 

Identifying the areas most impacted by the War on Drugs

Historical racial disparities driven by redlining, disinvestment, drug arrests, displacement data and other laws and policies of over policing have outlined East and West Oakland as the most impacted communities in need. 

Identifying programs for funding

The Emerald New Deal ordinance is not prescriptive and does not identify specific organizations or programs for funding, instead it sets the priorities for funding based on surveying impacted community members and other research methods. The funding priorities can be set as:

  • A funding/grant process which may fund both CBOs’ existing programs and newly created programs that are aligned with the mission of the ordinance. 

  • The funding priorities will also be applied to determining which City programs can receive funding, like MACRO or homelessness services or the Equity Program for Cannabis businesses. 

How will the Emerald New Deal get passed?

November 2022 Ballot

In order for END to become official policy, it needs to be passed by voters. It needs ⅔ or 66.7% of the vote to pass since the funds will be dedicated or restricted to its specific purpose. It needs to amend the City Charter. 

Path to the Ballot

There are two ways to secure a measure on the ballot: signature gathering and City Council vote. We’ve been organizing for END since before the COVID pandemic, and when signature gathering became unsafe, we pivoted to engaging City Councilmembers to sponsor the ordinance and place it on the ballot through a City Council vote.

City Councilmember Sponsors 

END’s community supporters met with Councilmembers over the fall and winter to inform them on the ordinance and gain their support. In April 2022, Councilmembers Loren Taylor, Treva Reid, and Noel Gallo became the official  co-sponsors of the ordinance and introduced it into the City Council legislative process as the “Emerald New Deal Healing And Reparations Fund.” East Oakland communities were the most targeted and harmed by the War On Drugs, and we are honored that all 3 City Council Members representing East Oakland have joined together to support this historic initiative.

What is the origin of the Emerald New Deal? 

END was born in Sobrante Park  

In the 1950’s and 60’s the Sobrante Park neighborhood had a vibrant social life and small business district, anti-segregationist activism anchored in the local church, and even an informal “Mayor” who helped affirm and organize the community to secure City attention and resources. The War on Drugs was an effort to crush that resiliency by breaking down the social and economic relationships that people had built to hold each other up. Emerald New Deal grew from community organizing supported by In-Advance in the Sobrante Park neighborhood of Deep East Oakland. In-Advance is an Oakland community organization non-profit working to deal with racial injustices. One of our core projects was a community-driven response to the City of Oakland’s ‘Equity Scores.’ 

After the City released their ‘Equity Scores,’ we spent 2017-2019 engaging 500 residents through door-knocking, surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups in neighborhoods with the highest poverty and unemployment rates and the lowest-income households. In response to the Department and Race & Equity’s “disparities indicators,” this project engaged the community to generate 53 “well-being indicators” grouped along the following themes: Housing, Public Safety, Neighborhood Services, Economy, Transportation, Education, and Public Health. 

One of these neighborhoods is Sobrante Park; we partnered with Sobrante Park Resident Action Council (SPRAC) to knock on doors across the neighborhood and learned that residents were surprised to learn a cannabis business permit had been issued there without their knowledge, and without any restitution for how the neighborhood was targeted and harmed during the War on Drugs. East Oakland has the highest rates of cannabis police arrests and the lowest levels of public investment; righting these wrongs are the core tenets of the Emerald New Deal. This led to the development of the Emerald New Deal by engaging residents directly impacted by the War on Drugs across the City to develop the funding priorities for addressing the harms and setting an equitable path forward. 

Addressing the War On Drugs 

The Emerald New Deal is intended to fulfill the promises made to Oakland residents when we approved Measure Z in 2004, and then reaffirmed when we legalized marijuana use in 2016 with proposition 64: repairing the harms of the War On Drugs. Although marijuana is now legal, the Black and Brown communities that were targeted by the policies collectively known as the War On Drugs are still experiencing the harms. It’s time for the City to take bold action to begin to repair these harms. By enacting the Emerald New Deal, the City of Oakland will create a policy change that provides crucial funding in response to an institutional and systemic problem, perpetuated by the War on Drugs. Here are a few key statistics:

  • 12,655 Oaklanders have been arrested between 1995-2015 for crimes related to cannabis use.  77% of them are Black, and 15% Latinx. 

  • While stable housing is the foundation of successful reentry, formerly incarcerated individuals comprise a minimum of 25-50% of the Oakland homeless population. 

  • Only 1-2% of students with incarcerated mothers and only 13- 25% of students with imprisoned fathers graduate from college.

Community Organizing 

In the months Prior to COVID-19, In-Advance community organizers were working with re-entry programs and surveying folks in key neighborhoods to hear about their priorities for how the City could address the harm they caused and continue to cause through the War On Drugs. In summer 2021 we refined a COVID-safe protocol and began knocking on doors across East Oakland, specifically the flats of Districts 6 & 7 in the areas with the highest cannabis arrest rates to hear their ideas for funding priorities, engage them in City Council outreach, and empower them to become leaders in the campaign. By December, campaign organizers and community members coordinated an event at Community Reformed Church in Sobrante Park to show their Councilmember Treva Reid the breadth and strength of the community’s support for END, featuring several community members and leaders sharing their stories for why we need END on the ballot. Campaign organizers have also held training sessions on engaging in the legislative process, and helped over 20 community members participate in City Council meetings. 

Campaign Organizers 

Equity InAdvance, a project of Tides Advocacy, whose mission is to advance equity and racial justice is sponsoring the END campaign and two Lead Organizers:

Charles Reed

Coming home in 2017 after serving 31 years in prison, Charles came home to a city he no longer recognized. The aftermath of America’s Drug War combined with Gentrification and Inner-City Disinvestment had transformed Oakland into a hopeless, homeless hovel. This was the land of the Panthers, Black Power and Town Pride. Hoping to restore those revolutionary principles, Charles immersed himself into community service. Starting from ROOTS Community Health Center, Goodwill Industries, Operation Dignity, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project to InAdvance; Charles has aided his community through workforce development, housing the homeless, environmental justice and the last few years as a Campaign Organizer for Oakland’s Emerald New Deal.

Gamila Abdelhalim

Gamila Abdelhalim is a lifetime community organizer and activist. Born and raised in Sudan, she grew up in an environment where oppressive structures were ingrained in the fabric of her home country. She fled oppression and the political turmoil in Sudan and sought asylum in the US in the early nineties.  Here, she immediately began to bear witness to the very same structures of oppression impacting Black and Brown communities across the nation. She was empowered to embark on a multifaceted career that was centered in communities empowerment, equity, racial and social justice work. For years, Gamila worked closely with communities of color and clients of all backgrounds to make a collective impact and positive change. She is driven by the quest of empowering women and elevating underserved and marginalized communities throughout every position. To her, human rights and women’s rights are core to her quest for change. Realizing equity through cannabis in the city of Oakland is one of the goals Gamila is dedicated to. She has been working hard to push the Emerald New Deal forward, whether through engagement in community activities, canvassing the streets of East and Deep East Oakland, talking to community-based organizations and city officials, Gamila is committed to do everything possible to defend, support, promote and elevate the Black and Brown communities of this great city.

Where does the existing Cannabis Business Tax go now? 

Current revenue generated 

In 2020, the Cannabis Business Tax collected $14 million in revenue. The revenue currently goes into the City’s General Fund where it is unlabeled and therefore virtually impossible to track, the END will ensure the funds support some of our most vulnerable community members.

Impact to the City’s General Fund 

While the Cannabis Business Tax collected $14 million in 2020, the tax revenue currently accounts for only 1-1.5% of the City’s General Fund. Through the Strategic Investment Plan, a portion of the END will continue to fund city services and departments that support our community members most impacted by the War on Drugs.

Impact to cannabis businesses

The Emerald New Deal does not directly impact cannabis businesses. The Emerald New Deal will only shift funds collected from the current Cannabis Business Tax from the City’s general fund into a designated fund to support communities most impacted by the War on Drugs. The Emerald New Deal does not deal with the regulation or taxation of cannabis products sold in the City of Oakland, nor does it affect the sales tax consumers currently spend on cannabis products.

Supporting the Cannabis Equity Program 

An Equity Cannabis Business is started and led by low-income and underserved individuals who seek to operate in the Cannabis industry. Some of the END fund will go towards the City’s Cannabis Equity Program, finally providing consistent, predictable funding for grants and loans to support cannabis business owners that were victimized by the War On Drugs. Right now the program has no dedicated funding from Oakland, and relies on state grants.